Five months after purchasing a building on Evans Avenue in Fort Myers, the PACE Center for Girls is moving into its new more spacious facility this week.
The students are on spring break this week thereby giving the organization time to relocate before the resumption of school on March 24. Kitchen equipment was moved last Friday with the rest of the contents and furnishings arriving each day this week.
"This is something that we all have worked so hard to reach this culmination," said PACE executive director Meg Geltner. "Our board and our staff have worked bringing this about for more than a year. We are beyond excited just dreaming of what it will be like in our new building. We're so excited we wish it could happen instantaneously. Our girls are thrilled they will be the first students to walk the hallways!"
The PACE Center began its journey by opening the doors to its first location in 2007. Over the course of the last seven years, the organization has raised more than $1.1 million for its new facility by gaining the trust and support of the Southwest Florida community. They purchased the building last October and have been renovating it ever since.
"We want to move in debt free, so we are working to pay for the renovations," said Geltner. "When that's done we will start work on raising money for new furnishings, so we won't add more girls at the get-go, though we are adding one part-time teacher."
The building, 3800 Evans Ave., sits on land donated to PACE by Lee Memorial Health Systems. The school for at-risk girls still needs to raise $200,000 to complete payment on the cost of renovations.
The new L. Gail Markham Building, named to honor its co-founding board chairperson, doubles the previous space to 15,000 square feet and allows expansion of services to more girls, increasing from 45 to a maximum of 60 at any one time.
Staff no longer must share offices and the students will have access to a library, a science lab and a computer lab where they can access credit retrieval programs.
"The amount of good that will come from being in this new building is indescribable," said Geltner. "The PACE Center has continued to do such good for young at-risk females in this community. We cannot wait to create on an even bigger impact when we are fully equipped in this school."
Since its opening, PACE has assisted about 600 girls find success in school, generate a positive relationship with their families and peers, and become productive members of the community. The center offers year round counseling and academic services for girls ages 12-18 facing challenges like foster care, domestic violence abuse, neglect, death of a parent, and substance abuse.
For more information, call 239-425-2366 or visit www.pacecenter.org.